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A Conversation with Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam, and Ethan Herisse On Bringing Amal's Story to Life

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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn't start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he's seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighborhood escalates into tragedy. "Boys just being boys" turns out to be true only when those boys are white.  

The story that I think

will be my life

starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal's bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn't commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?  

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth, in a system designed to strip him of both.

©2020 Ibi Zoboi (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers

A Conversation with Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam, and Ethan Herisse On How This Work Remains Hopeful

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What listeners say about Punching the Air

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Must read for educators

I am a white woman administrator and I totally think this is a must read for all educators. I was challenged by the role of the art teacher. It forced me to think of what I would say for any of my students if I were called to be a character witness. Our students are defined more than one moment in time. We MUST remember that. I totally want to buy this book for one of my students who is in juvenile hall right now with the message “I see you”

27 people found this helpful

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To Be Heard and Seen

A riveting performance, both on the page and through my speakers.

I highly recommend *listening* to (or, reading aloud) Zoboi’s and Salaam’s gorgeous, lyrical beauty.

The story is, unfortunately, far too rote for anyone paying attention to the (in)justice (mis)educational systems in America, so as with almost all of my favorite pieces of art—written and recorded—it’s far less about the plot than it is about the way their words inhabit the page, on both a visually aesthetic level, but also on a mellifluous, rhythmic one.

The imagery, the images, the imagination of it all.

Heartbreaking. Heart-rending. Hard to not wince and wonder and well up with weariness (at yet another tale as old as American time) and cries for war (against these systems of oppression).

Read it. Listen to it. Learn it. Know it. Understand it.

Then, *do* something about it.

This, my friends, is #artasactivism

19 people found this helpful

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This is a must read. Powerful and engaging. Heart breaking and heartwarming at the same time.

This is a must read. Powerful and engaging. Heart breaking and heartwarming at the same time.

7 people found this helpful

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Amazing story.

Amazing story, yet unfortunately, it was too short. I wanted the poetic prose to continue framing the conflict between ther protagonist vs society (the bias school to prison system and the industrial prison complex). But I do appreciate the cliffhanger at the end.

6 people found this helpful

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A magnificent piece of art that will endure

loved it, particularly as read aloud.. This should be made into a performance. Heartbreaking, revealing, & moving.

6 people found this helpful

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Good book young teens!!

Narrator was great, but started off kind of slow to me. I had to start it over while on a long ride then I got into it. I also don't like how it ended, it did not complete the story what happened to him, did the boy ever tell what really happened.

5 people found this helpful

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Amazing and inspired beyond the written words.

This is the first e book that I have finished and I really loved it. also props to you the reader for speaking as if these words where your own.

5 people found this helpful

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I was thoroughly pleased with this book!

I loved how the author draw you in and before I knew it I was fully engaged with his words!

5 people found this helpful

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great book

kept me wondering what was next. and i enjoyed every minute of it. so glad i chose it.

5 people found this helpful

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this story is told in authentic voice and tone.

I love it. I was hooked right away, the first 10 seconds. I could smell the street.

4 people found this helpful